President’s Report October 2015

BlazeAid President’s Report

6 October 2015

The year July 2014 to June 2015 has been exceptionally busy with a total of 11 base camps being established as a result of fires, floods, a cyclone and drought.  In addition, at the beginning of July 2014, two Drought Relief operations were still operating in outback Queensland from the previous year, one at Richmond and the other at Julia Creek.  Both these base camps closed at the end of August 2014 and have not been included in the 11 base camps that were actually established during 2014/2015.

Victoria. As a result of serious fires in Victoria, base camps were established at Thoona and Longwood in December and at Moyston in January.  A combined total of 402 volunteers performed 3,622 volunteer days of work on 90 different properties.  Volunteers cleared 296km of damaged fencing and assisted the property owners to erect 230km of new fencing.  These three camps closed in March.

South Australia.  A devastating fire in the Adelaide Hills saw a base camp open at Lenswood and this camp operated for more than 4 months.  309 volunteers performed 3,313 volunteer days of work on 112 separate properties.  70km of damaged fencing was cleared and the volunteers assisted the property owners to erect 55km of new fencing.

Queensland. Cyclone Marcia caused extensive flooding in Queensland resulting in considerable damage to fencing.  Three base camps were established in March, one at Monto, another at The Caves and one at Biloela.  A combined total of 360 volunteers worked 4,087 days on 249 properties.  They cleared 428km of damaged fencing and assisted property owners to rebuild 278km of new fencing.  A magnificent effort.  Monto and The Caves camps closed in May and Biloela completed work in June.

Western Australia.    Following enormous bush fires in March which devastated the Karri forests and numerous private properties in the south-western corner of Western Australia, a base camp was established at Northcliffe.  73 volunteers worked a total 773 days on 31 properties.  They cleared 71km of damaged fencing and assisted the property owners to rebuild 47km.  The camp closed in May.

New South Wales.  In April 2015, a devastating flash flood struck the town of Dungog and not only washed several houses away but caused the death of a number of local residents.  A base camp was established in May and the 154 volunteers worked a total of 1,189 days on 96 different properties.  They cleared 51km of damaged/flood affected fencing and assisted the property owners to rebuild 29km of new fencing.  The base camp closed in July.

Drought Relief. For the second year in a row, Drought Relief operations were co-ordinated at two locations in north-west Queensland.  Hughenden commenced operations in May, and Julia Creek commenced in June.  A total of 239 volunteers worked for 3,531 days assisting property owners who have not seen rain in some cases for more than 4 years.  These two operations are due to close down at the end of August 2015.

In summary.  For the 2014/2015 year, 1,537 volunteers performed 16,515 days of work on 677 different properties.  A total of 956km of damaged fencing was cleared and the volunteers assisted in rebuilding 701km of new fencing.  These figures are a considerable increase on the previous year.

Our greatest asset is our volunteers.  Without the dedication, passion and commitment of these wonderful people, most of whom are semi-skilled, retired grey nomads, we could never achieve such a magnificent outcome.  Their willingness to work in sometimes unpleasant conditions and to be away from their own families and friends is truly amazing.  It is also amazing how many of our volunteers return year after year to help out in various states of Australia.  It is truly a BlazeAid family with many reunions of friendly volunteers occurring at our many base camps.

There are many other volunteers that assist BlazeAid behind the scenes with a variety of tasks including those who tow trailers and equipment for use at a base camp; those wonderful organisations such as service clubs, church groups, community groups and many others who cater for our evening meals.  Without these people we would find it very difficult to achieve our goals.  A big thankyou.

Co-ordinators.  The success of any base camp is due to the skills of our volunteer co-ordinators.  These people work very long hours, 7 days a week for several months at a time and make sure our resources, both human and materiel are used to the best advantage assisting property owners to rebuild their lives.  The co-ordinators who have run base camps over the past 12 months are almost too numerous to name individually.  My heart-felt thanks goes out to these co-ordinators because without them, we could not possibly achieve our goals.

Local Government.  We rely heavily on support from the local councils and most of our base camps are established at the invitation of the local council.  More often than not, local councils organise a location for a base camp with all the necessary inclusions for our use, or they might pick up on the spike in electricity use and they often provide us with many other facilities to make our stay more comfortable.  When disasters occur in an area, it is often local government that is first to respond to assist the community.  To all the local councils that assisted us during 2014/2015, we sincerely thank you.

Trailers & Equipment.  To ensure BlazeAid can remain combat ready in all states should we be required to set up base camps, a massive undertaking during the year saw dozens of fully equipped trailers, many of which were brand new, distributed across Australia.  A call went out for volunteers to tow trailers, sometimes thousands of kilometres across Australia and we were inundated with kind offers of assistance.  A very big thank you to those who helped us out.

The ABC.  A special thankyou to the ABC for their on-going support of BlazeAid.  Ian (Macca) McNamara, Lee Kelly, Ian Mannix and many others at the ABC have been very supportive of us.  Macca visited Dungog in NSW during May and did one of his outside broadcasts of Australia All Over from the town centre.  We were also pleased to have him, Lee and the technical crew join us at our base camp for dinner one night.

BlazeAid Committee.  Thank you to the Committee members who have contributed so much this year.  Without their tireless efforts, BlazeAid would not be the outstanding organisation that it is.  A special thank you to Dennis and Helene Livingston for taking charge of the donations that flow into BlazeAid.  I feel sure that BlazeAid will grow into the future as more and more requests are received from the various communities that suffer as a result of natural disasters that strike without warning.

The success of BlazeAid is a culmination of many outstanding contributions by so many people.  The administration needs of the organisation are many and requires an ongoing presence by very competent people; the volunteers who attend our base camps and so readily give their time; the co-ordinators who do a magnificent job of running the base camps; members of the community who cook for us; people who donate to BlazeAid to allow us to continue our operations; and people who volunteer to tow trailers to all corners of Australia.  The list is endless.

I don’t think I could operate effectively without a very important person in my life, my lovely wife, Rhonda.  Rhonda’s unyielding support, patience, devotion wisdom and advice and her warmth in welcoming countless BlazeAiders into our home and the numerous meals and cups of tea she makes for them is really appreciated by everyone.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

When disaster strikes, it affects people in different ways but the one common thread is their need to return to their pre-disaster lifestyle.  BlazeAid helps to rebuild their lives and gives them a sense of direction.

The outstanding contributions by so many dedicated people is the reason why BlazeAid has been such a success.

Kevin Butler – President

BlazeAid helping communities rebuild after Natural Disasters.

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